Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Passion A New Theory?

In my article last Friday I referenced a post by Scott Young regarding the pursuit of multiple passions. In response to the article Cal Newport wrote an interesting piece on what he believes passion truly is.

Cal contends that passion is the feeling that arises from having mastered a skill that earns you recognition and rewards. And therefore a passion is not discovered, but it is in fact cultivated.

Brief Overview
It’s an interesting theory that on a surface level makes sense. I can recall going through school and how much I loved it in the early years. It was extremely easy and through minimal effort I received high scores and recognition in every subject. As I reached junior high certain subjects not based on logic (Spanish, Geography, etc.) proved difficult because the information couldn’t be figured out without studying. Science and math stayed easy through early highschool. I remember sleeping in Algebra class and only waking up to ace the tests. At the behest of my teacher I was asked to attend the district math competition and discovered several days later I won second place. I didn’t care and never claimed the medal or the certificate. As I took more difficult math classes the material was harder than my innate intelligence. I didn’t put in any effort to learn the material and got mediocre grades. At this point school work was no longer fun, I had lost my “passion” for school.

We all have things that we do well, but mastery requires us to apply ourselves to a vocation. How does this theory apply in the professional world? Passion is not something that strikes us like lightning and all of a sudden we are there ready to do great things. Rather passion is something that is nurtured through repeated effort and realized once we achieve a high level of skill. Find something that you occasionally enjoy doing and develop a skillset and level of mastery that allows you to achieve the life you wanted. If you are the very best X in the world do you think you could set your own hours?

In application
So for me personally that means to spend time developing something I enjoy. I’ve realize that I truly enjoy leadership. At my current job running projects, overseeing/motivating people, explaining concepts, and recruiting are my favorite activities. What I don’t do is develop my talent outside of a work environment. So let’s say my goal is as follows: to be an effective leader that motivates and improves the lives of others while providing an invaluable asset to my company. I can now identify daily steps I should take to develop mastery.

As part of my goal I plan on devoting at least an hour a day to focused mastery. This can be through an increased participation in organizations, encouragement, or increasing my knowledge base. The options go on and on. The point is that I should do SOMETHING. Additionally, I must view my job as a place to cultivate the knowledge necessary to master information that develops me professionally as an asset. I’m reminded of a great quote (unfortunately did not record the source):

Today, you have the opportunity to change everything. Your whole live hinges on today’s actions. If you do not act today, if you do not grab control of your fate today, your life will take a completely different trajectory. One path leads to greatness, and the other path leads to a life where you will look back on today as the day where you could have spoken up, today is the day where you could have reached out. You will look back realizing that today was the one chance you had to change everything. Do not let this moment pass you by.

Where do your natural abilities lie? What can you master if you set your mind to it? It’s time to put in the work, today.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009


As you stare down at 13,000 feet below you with the wind whipping through the cabin, jumping out of an airplane no longer seems like a good idea. As I prepared to jump I checked every lock and strap, and still sheer terror coursed through my veins as I knew that my life was in the hands of a cloth bag packed by someone I didn’t know.

And then you jump…

Four seconds of extreme fear followed by an amazing calm. The wind stops being so loud, you are now part of the heavens. Amazement and awe struck beauty sweep over you. 20 seconds ago you felt you had made the worst decision of your life but in this moment it is beautiful and perfect.

Going out of our comfort zone is never easy. Our initial reaction is always fear and dread because it’s not what we know. These times of pushing our limits are always where we find the most growth. When we go beyond what we know we learn something, and we change. The world is now bigger and we become better people for it.

This is especially true when we make career, social, or spiritual decisions. When we take the leap our idea of truth or norms are challenged. So today what can you do to step into the unknown. Is there something you have been wanting to do, but couldn’t quite go through with? It’s scary and unknown; chances are though on the other side you will come out a bigger and better person. In the words of a famous brand… just do it.

Do one thing every day that scares you.
-Mary Scmich, Wear Sunscreen

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Note on Passion

I have grown rather frustrated at times with my inability to find a life’s passion. Why can’t I find something that I want to become absolutely excellent at? Instead I find myself wanting to experience the world. One goal of mine has always been to run a business, and I have tried to pursue skillsets to help me in that role.

The problem was that I couldn’t find something that I wanted to be truly excellent at. So this sliver of doubt creeped in and frustrated me to no end. Steve Pavlina talks a lot about synchronicities and the fact that the world around you shows you what you should be doing. It’s a little out there and yet I see situations where I get little hints that I’m on the right path. This week for example as I struggled with discovering passion an explosion of ideas that supported my current path came to the forefront.

I downloaded and read the getAbstract version of On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis. Bennis mentions that leaders progressively grow and develop professionally and personally throughout their lives. Leaders often have a wide range of hobbies and activities they engage in. This allows them relate to many different types of people and a wide base of knowledge is a strength. This was refreshing because I’ve been so set on finding out the one thing that motivates me. Instead I always end up engaging in and enjoying many activities. Bennis supports and encourages this idea of well roundedness.

Scott Young wrote an article this week about pursuing several passions. Within the article is a blog post by Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert. Adams states that the reason he succeeded wasn't because he could write jokes better than comedians or draw better than artists; rather when you combined his skills: knowledge of the business world, writing jokes, and drawing he offered a skillset that no one else could match. In pursuing several passions you can become proficient at many that develop a unique perspective and skillset unmatched by your peers. Adams goes further and mentions that the one thing he tells all graduates is to focus on your speaking and writing skills. Regardless of what you career you decide on these skills will serve you well. I’ve spent a great deal of time on public speaking (through toastmaster’s and work related activities) and writing (work as well as this blog). The hours I’ve spent are extremely important to where I want to go in the future.

If you have a passion, pour yourself into that passion. The people who are the very best at what they do have put the most time into honing their craft. It is estimated that it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something. It takes much more to be one of the very best. If instead you are like me and don’t seem to have one passion. Then increase your knowledge base and skillsets by engaging in lots of activities. Become well read in many areas and be able to understand and communicate with all types of people. Additionally, work on your speaking and writing skills as they are crucial in any vocation. Renaissance men and women can bring groups of talent together and create an environment where exceptionally talented people can achieve fantastic results.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update: Spain to Italy 2010

I posted a new post over at the Spit2010 Blog. Click here to check it out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

30 Day Experiment: Getting Unfat and Energized

I seemed to have broken the bank at costco yesterday as I stocked up for my new diet. I’ve been hinting at it for a few weeks, and now that my trips, birthday, and Halloween are over I decided it was time to execute. I plan on following a Paleo diet for the next thirty days. I haven’t read much of Good Calories, Bad Calories so as I delve more into the book I will have additional information to add on the benefits of such a diet.

The main idea is simply that our bodies are made to digest things that are natural to us as human beings. It has been propagated in our culture that high fat diets lead to heart disease, clogged arteries, etc. The problem with this premise is that as people eat less fat in their daily lives (for more carbs) the chance of heart disease does not decrease (see President Eisenhower as a famous example) but has in fact increased.

What modern science has started to find is that processed carbohydrates are the enemy. Foods that are high glycemic in nature spike our insulin levels and cause all sorts of messes for our body. The symptom that I am most concerned with is the energy level fluctuations. After eating a high carb meal (note when I say high carb I’m assuming high glycemic carbs) your body spikes in energy and then subsequently crashes as well. When you replace those carbs with naturally digestable carbs such as vegetables, fruits, quinoa, etc. these spikes don’t occur and you receive a steady energy supply throughout the day. Proponents of the diet claim a willingness to be more active and energized.

So my hypothesis is that by eating a paleo style diet I will have more energy level for activity and feel more energized throughout the day. I will test it by following a paleo diet for 30 days. I will have at least one cheat meal a week since I eat out with my work team one day a week, and possibly one or two meals on the weekend. So I am committing myself to 18-19/21 meals a week.

I’m getting recipes from two blogs and will consult a few websites if I’m looking for something far out there. What’s interesting is the use of natural sweetners. Blue Agave nectar is supposedly sweeter then table sugar and yet low glycemic. I’ve reviewed interesting dessert recipes I want to try, and If I remember I will take a picture of some of my favorite meals to share with you.

In truth, I tend to follow this natural diet most of the time. I just haven’t committed myself to so many healthy meals and documented my results. I am very interested to see if I will have a significant change in energy level as some have claimed. As always, if you have any questions or comments post them below and I will respond.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Frustration of Self Improvement

Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts… Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day, at the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve.
- Charlie Munger

You can’t tell someone else how to live their life, because it’s not your life to live. It’s hard being a family member or as I would imagine a parent and seeing someone you care about make poor choices. There is really nothing you can do about it.

I talk to lots of people and they seem to in general have the same routine. Perhaps they go home and watch tv or play video games or work out or whatever. Our quality of life is the summation of our daily choices. Many of the top self help bloggers mention the biggest problem they face is getting people to put their suggestions into action. It’s hard to get moving.

And I’m no saint, far from perfect. I just got back into working out regularly this week. I’ve done an activity or two a week but I could be digging deeper into what life has to offer. I have no excuses. So what’s the answer? I’m not sure how to change others and I’m no expert on even changing myself. Perhaps though Munger gets it right. Day by day do SOMETHING to make yourself a better person. It will all add up and pretty soon you will get what you deserve.

So perhaps to change others we must change ourselves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brand New All Over Again

I picked up poker again. It was the culmination of two things. One: watching the world series of poker and realizing how much I loved the game. I remember sitting in Dunn Hall and playing in the tournament I had started. I loved seeing how people reacted, studying it, and finding out why they did what they did. Human behavior is something I find captivating. What causes people to act in certain ways? That always drove my interest in poker. I wanted to beat them because I knew why they were playing the way that they did. You can read more about my poker past here and here.

Two: poker is a game that falls into my skillset. I’m not very emotional at all. I stay even keeled regardless of the circumstances. Poker favors the calm; you will lose pots you should win and vice versa. It’s not something for the faint of heart. As long as I make the right play I’m not disappointed because I know over the long term it will pay off. I have a logical mind, and at the simplest level poker is a game of logical math. Calculating odds is relatively simple and pairing that with your observations is how you become successful. I don’t know what level of success I can achieve, but I want to give it one more try. My beginning goal is to play for a month and assess where I stand at that point. My bankroll is $600.

I’ve been playing since Monday now and have played approximately 800 hands and made$63 in cash games netted against 40 or so in tourney entries. Took me about a day to get back into the flow of the game. I won’t go into the details because it’s not relevant to most of you. Though I have been blogging on a daily basis my poker hijinks and keeping in depth records of my progress. If I decide to post them I will create a new blog to do so. I still have made some frustrating mistakes that have hampered my progress. I’ll start playing live tournaments soon.

I’ve always stressed to find something you are good with and then develop the skill. I got away from poker at the time because I had to in order to be successful in school. I’m not in the same life position I was then. As with all my experiments I will perform an assessment in thirty days to decide if I want to continue playing. So far I’m able to balance my time with it well and am committing between an hour and two hours a day.

Do you have an activity that you used to do well? Could it be profitable for you?

Lucid Dream Update
I am still trying to lucid dream and recording my dreams. My dreams still come and go. I’m recalling perhaps 2-4 dreams a week. I hope to improve that number. I’ve achieved lucidity once, but was woken up shortly after doing so. I haven’t tried any of the lucid techniques yet, but hopefully can over vacation when I don’t have to risk losing sleep.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sparking an Old Habit

This Sunday was my birthday. I always find them odd. Aside from ones where the state recognizes something special about you (16, 18, 21) or where you enter a new decade (30,40,50…) the day in and of itself never seems special to me. I’m 1/365 older today then I was yesterday. And still it always serves as a point of reflection.

I’ve been lazy the past three weeks or so. My workout routine was interrupted for a few days as my crossfit gym got banned from doing activity indoors. This was followed by the fact that it rained torrentially for the better part of four days. Once my routine was interrupted I settled for poor habits rather than replacing them with good. I’m far from perfect and I admit that I stifled my progress. I am back though into the swing of things so I wanted to share my method for getting back on track:

1) Go Back to the Start

My goal board helped me tremendously in the early going to achieve a level of routine. To restart my routine I restarted my goal board by listing out daily tasks I would complete to have a successful day.

2) Identify bad routines and eliminate

One of the things I would habitually do is come home and eat and then veg out for the rest of the night. I wanted to go running instead so I picked up Jenks and took my companion for a jog. This was outside my routine and I replaced my lazyness by doing something out of the ordinary (picking up the dog).

3) Don’t Overdo It

In the past I would have gone and ran 6 or 7 miles. That would have been good for one day, but kept me from working out today. Instead I ran about 2 miles and I will lift or run about the same distance today. I simply need to reestablish my habit and then work on pushing myself.

It’s not easy to start. It’s the hardest part of achieving a great lifestyle. Once you can develop a routine the process gets a lot easier. Focus on the repetition and then tweak the activity until you maximize the effectiveness. Soon I’ll be back on the crossfit wagon, but it starts with a jog.